Sonia Gandhi Writes to PM Backing Corona Lockdown, Suggests Steps
Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi.
Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi.(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

Sonia Gandhi Writes to PM Backing Corona Lockdown, Suggests Steps

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, 26 March, supporting the lockdown announced in view of the coronavirus outbreak, while suggesting steps like protecting doctors and seeking deferment of loan recovery.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sweeping the world had caused serious public health concerns, anguish and apprehensions in India, she wrote in her letter to the Prime Minister.

“COVID-19 has put in peril lives and put at risk the lives and livelihoods of millions, particularly the most vulnerable sections of our society. The entire nation stands as one in solidarity in the fight to halt and defeat the corona pandemic”.
Sonia Gandhi, Congress Chief

She noted that the 21-day nationwide lockdown announced by the Prime Minister as a measure to fight the coronavirus was a welcome step.

“As President of the Indian National Congress, I would like to state that we will support and collaborate fully with every step taken by the Union Government to ensure the containment of the pandemic”.
Sonia Gandhi, Congress Chief

She said that at this challenging and uncertain time, it is imperative for each one of us to rise above partisan interests and honour our duty towards our country and towards humanity.

“It is in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation therefore that I would like to suggest some measures I believe will help us address the massive health crisis we are about to face and ameliorate the immense economic and existential pain that vulnerable sections of our society will soon be subjected to”, the Congress chief said.

She also stressed on the need to arm doctors, nurses and health workers with personal protection equipment, including N-95 masks and hazmat suits.

“Let us ensure the opening and scaling up of manufacture and supply of these items so that not a single health professional faces the predicament of contracting or passing on COVID-19 owing to unavailability of ‘Personal Protection Equipment’”, Gandhi said.

Announcing a special “Risk Allowance” for doctors, nurses and health workers for a period of six months retrospectively from 1 March was imperative, she added.

The Congress chief also called upon the Centre to immediately commission and begin construction of temporary facilities with large numbers of ICUs and ventilators in areas where the outbreak is expected to be concentrated in the near future.

She also said a dedicated portal for sharing all necessary information was a way forward.

Gandhi said disseminating all essential information, including the locations of the designated hospitals and their emergency phone numbers, was essential to facilitate the management of the pandemic.

Noting that many businesses and companies were laying off and retrenching large numbers of regular and temporary employees, she said, “It would be in order for the Union Government to immediately put in place broad-based social protection measures, including direct cash transfer, to these sections to tide over the period of difficulty”.

Gandhi also sought a deferment of all loan recoveries up to six months, including for the loans given to farmers and the salaried class.

She pointed out that the 21-day lockdown comes at the peak of the harvesting season, as the crop is ready for harvesting in most states by March-end.

“With nearly 60 per cent of India’s population being economically dependent on agriculture, it is imperative that the Union Government should take necessary steps to enable harvesting and procurement of crops at MSP. This is also the right time to suspend all recoveries from farmers for a period of six months and consider indebtedness relief liberally”, the Congress president said.

She also called for implementing the Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme, that is the “NYAY Yojana” proposed by her party.

Alternatively, she said an amount of Rs 7,500 should be transferred to every Jan Dhan account holder, PM Kisan Yojna account holder, those receiving old-age, widow, differently-abled pensions and MGNREGA workers as a one-time measure.

Gandhi also suggested distributing 10 kg of rice or wheat per family member to every ration card holder through PDS for free.

For the salaried class, she said the Centre might consider deferring all EMIs for six months, adding that the interest charged by the banks might consequently be waived for this period.

“Similarly, all loan installment deductions from the salaries of government employees may also be deferred for six months”, Gandhi said.

She said the government must consider announcing a comprehensive, sector-wise relief package, including necessary tax breaks, interest subvention and deferment of liabilities.

“Mr Prime Minister, if implemented, these measures will reaffirm our commitment to each and every one of our citizens when they most need support and protection. We in the Congress Party stand with the people of India at this time of national crisis and we extend to the government our full support and cooperation,” Gandhi wrote to the Prime Minister.

(Inputs: PTI)

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